Editor’s note: We continue to pray as a CatholicMom.com family for the recuperation of precious little Fulton Poppe, for Cassandra, and for the entire Poppe family. LMH
Palm Sunday Mass was packed. My 11 year old son and I sat in the last two folding chairs in the back, and my 4 year old son sat in his stroller. It had been a particularly difficult week, full of disappointments and tears, and I desperately needed this Mass. I was exhausted, and while I carried the cross I had been given faithfully, I had stumbled and felt as though I was failing to carry it as I should. My eyes were moist through most of the Mass, desperate for some relief. But since I knew no one in the parish, I truly felt abandoned.
The moment I received His True Presence within me and carried my son back to our seats, the tears flowed more freely. I knew I had not been abandoned – I was simply being asked to love a little more than I had been loving before. But how, Lord? How?
If you hadn’t already heard, my 4 year old son Fulton was severely burned in a homesteading accident on January 8. From the moment we were airlifted from our local schoolyard, I had prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries and had received such an overabundance of graces, I couldn’t even begin to describe them all.
“Thy will be done” was the constant underlying prayer of that rosary, and by the time we landed in Tulsa, I actually believed that I could accept His will, no matter what the outcome was. Having no experience in this level of tragedy before, and having no medical background to give me an inkling as to what might lay ahead for us, “Thy will be done” was the only answer I could give to everything that presented itself to me. I peacefully accepted this cross and prayed I carried it worthily.
“We’re having trouble securing his airway.”
“Thy will be done.”
“We can’t handle this level of trauma here. We’re sending you to Texas.”
“Thy will be done.”
“You could be in Galveston for as long as 6 months.”
“Thy will be done.”
Each day was filled with all sorts of bad news. The accident, this cross, challenged me in ways I had never even dreamed possible, and yet Fulton and I both survived. In fact, in many ways I thrived spiritually during those darkest of hours in the beginning. The real challenges began as Fulton began to heal and more of his care was turned over to me. Hospital vigils and watching helplessly as nurses and doctors rushed around his bed toughened me up emotionally. And meditating on Our Lord’s suffering, especially as He carried His Cross, prepared me spiritually. But even with all the preparations, I still staggered mightily under its weight.
Indeed, I have learned much about accepting God’s will and carrying a difficult cross. I now know it is not the actual carrying of it that matters so much as the manner in which it is carried that seems to matter to Our Lord. Simply accepting God’s will in life does not mean saying, “OK, here is my cross. I’ll just scoop this up and be on my way.” That is not what Jesus meant when he told us to pick up our crosses and follow Him, for we can very well carry a cross given to us by God and gain no merit in it at all. See how Scripture makes this clear:
Matthew 27:32 “And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up his cross.”
Luke 23:26 “And as they led him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus.”
Mark 15:21 “And they forced one Simon a Cyrenian who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and of Rufus, to take up his cross.”
Not one of these accounts remotely implies that Simon eventually had a change of heart and gladly carried the cross forced upon him. There was no love to motivate him to carry it well. Only the temporal punishment from the soldiers if he refused, and perhaps even an anger and resentment toward Our Lord spurred him on to begrudgingly shoulder the burden thrust upon him. What an unimaginable loss for Simon, to be so close to Our Lord’s suffering, yet unwilling to accept the salvation that came with it! I cannot help but think Simon’s ‘assistance’ made Our Lord’s burden even heavier as He struggled under the weight.
Compare this type of help to the loving caress of Veronica as she rushed to Our Lord to wipe His gentle face. The loving warmth of her hands as she pressed the veil upon his brow seeped into Him and consoled Him in ways Simon never would. While she did not shoulder an actual cross as Simon did, her cross came to her through the pain and suffering she experienced because of her all-consuming love of Our Lord, taking on His suffering and responding to it by offering what consolations she could.
I returned to my seat and held Fulton on my lap as I closed my eyes and prayed, meditating on the cross we shared. I prayed I never become a Simon to him. I never want him to feel as though his care is somehow a burden to me that I despise, for that will only drive a wedge between us and will slow the flow of love. But how, my Lord, shall I do this? How do I keep my love for You before me, reminding me to carry this burden with love, when at times I feel as though it will crush me?
Tears fell from my eyes, and I felt my son draw nearer to my own. I felt the gentle bump-bump-bump of his little nose on the tip of mine and I opened my eyes. There he was, my little man, two days post-surgery, still swollen and bruised, with bloodied stitches around his mouth and eyes, and deep scarring everywhere else.
The face of Our Suffering Lord. Right before my eyes.
He smiled at me, and bumped my nose again, our silent way of telling each other, “I love you.”
What a sight we must have been, in the back of that church! Two Veronicas, ministering to each other as they carried their crosses! But just as Veronica did not care about the crowds that pressed around her as they watched her console Him and lighten His load, I cried as I caressed Fulton’s disfigured little face, and embraced all the suffering that I could, as best I could.
As I stepped out into the bright Texas sunshine, I dusted off my knees, shifted the weight a bit, and renewed my willingness to continue to take up this cross and follow Him each day.
Thy will be done, Lord. With love.
Copyright 2013 Cassandra Poppe